Papas Rellenas

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August 31, 2012 by ronfluff

One of my favourite meals of the year is the hot bubble and squeak, cold meats and pickles that our family have on Boxing Day. Last year, due to a six-month trip to South America and South East Asia, Boxing Day was spent in Bali, thus no bubble-and-squeak-fest. Instead I did get to experience plenty of different cuisines around the world, and a year ago in Peru, whilst staying with a family in Cusco, I was fed Papas Rellenas, the closest thing to the fried potato joy of the day after Christmas.

A traditional dish of Peru, versions of this stuffed mashed potato are also claimed by other Latin-American countries such as Cuba (a picadillo variety) and Puerto Rico (called “relleno de papa”). In Peru though, the land where there are literally thousands of varieties of potato, this dish is an almurzo (lunch) staple that, like Nasi Goring in Indonesia and the afementioned bubble and squeak here, provides good sustenance and happily uses up all of those commonly left-over foods.

Realistically, you can experiment and stuff the potato with any stewed meat or vegetable, but the addition of spices such as paprika and cumin (and again, you may wish to experiment with others give a much needed oomph to the flavour and help to cut through the slightly heavy potato crust. Meanwhile, as with so many foods from developing countries around the world, a little egg goes a long way to adding much needed extra protein, meaning the expensive meat content can be reduced.

My verison of Papas Rellenas comes part from memory and part from research, and I am by no means an expert on Peruvian cuisine, but the results were pretty close to my memory of lunches cooked by Snra Carla in a chilly Cusco. A big helping of plain rice, unfailingly adding to the plates of the Andes, was just a carb-heavy step too far, even for August in the UK, so I enjoyed my high-altitude stuffed mash with some lightly pickled red onion.

Papas Rellenas

I only made one stuffed potato, but had lots of stuffing left. Bringing the amount of mashed potato up to around 750d-1kg, you could easily make a whole batch to serve 4 or 5.

You’ll need:

  • Leftover (or freshly made and cooled) mashed potato (see above)
  • Flour (optional and you’ll have to judge the amount needed to stiffen up the mashed potato – if it isn’t stiff enough it will fall apart when cooked)
  • 150g miced beef
  • 1 onion (diced)
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed/pureed
  • 1 hard-bolied egg, shelled and diced
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tablespoon tomato puree
  • 1 egg, beaten and combined with a splash of water (eggwash)
  • High-heat oil for frying (eg vegetable, sunflower, rapeseed)

Do it!

  1. Make sure the mashed potato is cold and firm. Add some flour if it needs firming up a bit.
  2. Heat a frying pan and sweat onions for around 5-6 minutes.
  3. Add garlic and spices and continue to fry for a minute or so more before adding mince. Cook for a further 4-5 minutes until the meat is no longer pink.
  4. Add oregano, tomato puree and any other ingredients you feel necessary, season to taste.
  5. When satisfied with your meat mixture, set it to one side and stir in chopped hard-boiled egg.
  6. Put a clean pan onto the heat and add high-heat oil for frying, upto about 3cm depth (alternatively, you could use a deep-fat fryer).
  7. In the palm of your hand, carefully flatten some potato and add about a dessertspoon of the meat mix.
  8. Curl the edges of the potato over and shape into a ball.
  9. Dip in or brush with eggwash and fry in hot all for abouth a minue on each side, until it is golden brown all over. Be careful – the potato will fall apart if it is poked and played with too much!
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